A Call to Software Vendors – give me collaboration

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Oh, dear. I feel a bit of rant coming on. It’s been building. I need to do something. What’s this an email? I need to do a blog post. What could I write about? What should I write about? Hmmm. I think the time for my rant is now!

I’ve spent a lot of my time with Sogeti looking at software tools and processes and ways of using those tools effectively to give the best outcome for our customers external and internal. I’ve always had a goal that I want tools to be invisible to their users. People use them. They do their job. They do it with the least amount of pain possible. That they just trust the tool to the point that they no longer see it – much the same way as you rarely think about your keyboard and monitor while working – they are just there.

In the past I’ve focused on ease of use, return on investment, future-proofing, fit for the technical stack, etc. etc. (and yes), etc. Sometimes even collaboration has popped into my thought processes. How easy is it to work with one or more people to do what has to be done.

Most of the tools I look at are good. They do the job. They give us the features to do the job. In fact, it’s getting quite hard to tell one tool from the next – yeah they might look different but they do the same things.

Look at automation tools. Can you automate this? Yes. Can you automate that? Yes. Etc. Sometimes the only difference is that they look a bit different, use a different way of expressing the same concepts. At times it almost feels like the choice is between blue or green when looking at a new car. Both will do the job. (to avoid doubt I picked green and blue as two colours I had to choose between when I bought my last car – they have nothing to do with any colours relating to any software tool, products, companies or anything other than being two colours)

Now I am sat at home in my small office, surrounded by walls I had meant to paint last year and never got around to, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tools and not quite in the same way. Working from home has made me think about how we interact with the tools and each other. We have email (too much!) or Skype (I hate that call sound) or Teams (so many of them to join, argh which one just updated) to communicate and keep in touch. But what about the other tools?

The word for me is collaboration. A feature that’s become very important as remote working has grown in ways no one expected even a few months ago. Tools to do our jobs while away from the office become more and more important to us, to our customers and to society as a whole.

Now I want to be able to work closely with my teams when we are scattered across large distances in both space and time, I realise just how few tools there are out there that allow me to really collaborate with other people. Instead, I have to use other tools to share my screen, or capture screenshots, or send a file. I want tools that help me! Hell, even the entire toolchain talking the same language would be a start. Can my IDE to talk the build system and the automation tools, and the performance tool, and the accessibility tool, and the backend database. Or do I need to install another plugin? And another. Then update a third. And how about someone on a different tool stack. How do I share it with them? How do my customers get to see this? I’ve been beating Skype and Teams and Jira and others into shape to support this but I want something better, something meta.

I don’t want yet another video conference or IM replacement. Not another standalone collaboration tool! I want to work with someone seamlessly – if they on at the next desk, at the other end of the country, or in India or the USA. I want to work with them. Easily. In a way that is human and not just a replay of old ways of communicating.

I want to see innovation. Show us what you can do with your tools. Bake it into the feature set. Get me working with people in a way that is seamless.

Those who get it right, that’s going to be the killer feature for the next year and beyond (in my humble opinion)

Andrew Fullen

About

Andrew has been a managing consultant with Sogeti since 2009. In this role, he has worked on a number of major clients across government and private sectors covering tasks such as security test manager for a major government pan-agency project, helping with restructuring a bank rescued by the UK government during the financial crash, re-planning a major welfare project and architecting a performance policy and approach to address significant shortfalls in the delivered solution.

More on Andrew Fullen.

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